Difference between an Archive and a museum: The Heritage Center

Red Cloud Indian School students engage in object based learning through observation and interaction with The Heritage Center’s exhibits and permanent collection.

Archive: A collection of historical documents or artifacts.

Museum: A place that has displays for people to come and view historical documents and artifacts.

Many museums can be considered archives, but an archive is not necessarily a museum. My intention this month is to highlight the difference between an Archive and a Museum. The Diocese of Rapid City is in a unique position with two Native American Reservations holding phenomenal museums. The following is a highlight of The Heritage Museum in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  —Kathy Cordes, Archivist

By Mary Maxon, Director Heritage Center

The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge is one of the earliest cultural centers and museums located on an Indian reservation in the United States. Our programming explores the rich skills and creativity that are mainstays of the local Lakota and other Native American cultures. We are deeply committed to our work to strengthen cultural pride and celebrate, as well as preserve, the local Lakota culture and artistic tradition.

We are more than just a museum or art gallery. We are also an economic engine on the Pine Ridge Reservation. With rates of up to 80%  unemployment here, the Lakota community faces challenging economic and social conditions in southwestern South Dakota. Yet through the Center’s gift shop and online store, local artists are empowered to increase their own economic self-sufficiency by making their incredible work available to a wider community and in doing so, preserve their work and extend appreciation for their artistry to all corners of the globe.

The Heritage Center program began through understanding that arts, creativity, and the making of beautiful objects are essential to Lakota culture and learning. The Annual Red Cloud Indian Art Show was started as an avenue to celebrate native art and artists on the reservation, and a way for native artists to get a foot in the door and learn about the ins and outs of gallery shows and retail selling. To support the show and the participating artists, Red Cloud Indian School staff purchased three award-winning pieces from the 1969 Red Cloud Indian Art Show. Each subsequent year, they continued to purchase new pieces, and ultimately amassed a diverse and important collection of works by local and national native artists.

The Heritage Center facility, located in historic Drexel Hall, is dedicated to protecting, growing, and exhibiting that collection. What began with those three early pieces now includes an estimated 10,000 pieces of Lakota and other native art, from priceless historical artifacts to cutting-edge modern works. Since its formal creation in 1982, The Heritage Center has continued to expand this unique  and diverse collection of native art — and uses it to create groundbreaking exhibitions and arts education programs.

The Heritage Center’s mission is to honor native art and to expand opportunities for native artists. The Center’s gallery exhibitions have brought tens of thousands of visitors to the Pine Ridge Reservation and been displayed in museums across the country. Through its gift shop, the Center purchases and sells works by local native artists to increase economic opportunity on the reservation and beyond. Also, its team develops innovative, arts-based educational programs to increase the public’s understanding of native art and Lakota culture.